Week by week the intrigue grows with HBO’s House of the Dragon, and the internal conflict of the mighty Targaryen Dynasty is beginning to cause much strife in the capital of Kings Landing. Mix in a few secrets and a good dose of sinful desire and the match is struck beside a growing powder keg of the catastrophe which is just waiting to explode.
After Rhaenyra cuts her tour of Westeros short, Daemon introduces the Princess to the Street of Silk after dark.
Under the command of her father, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) is entertaining a host of lesser lords in a bid to marry her off. Unimpressed with the gaggle of upstarts she quickly returns to the capital and the wrath of her now bloated, louche father, King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) who day by day is growing weaker, bitter and venomous in his actions falls upon her. She finds some sort of solace in her friend and now the Queen Consort, Queen Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) who is stuck in a guided cage, behind high castle walls with the only option ‘to push out more heirs’ as Rhaenyra describes it. And then there’s the return of Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) who due to his victory in the Stepstones has been named King of the Narrow Sea. But his eyes waiver not for his brother’s approval but for far more sinister and delicate desires.
Episode Four of House of the Dragon, ‘King of the Narrow Sea’ as directed by Clare Kilner is filled with plenty of dark intrigues and sinful lusts. This episode has much to do with the emotional growth and complexity of our lead characters as their twisted interpersonal relationships come to the front. While on the surface Prince Daemon’s victory is an event for celebration, beneath the banquets and honours is a very fragile family unit who are coming apart at the seams. Bloated, drunken and beginning to rot away to illness and disease King Viserys I Targaryen is a tyrant without authority or fear, and even with the warm embrace of Queen Alicent, he’s still a very unpleasant man to be around. Then there’s Princess Rhaenyra who having rejected the marriage proposal of every lord in Westeros begins to come under the hypnotic spell of her rebel uncle and Kilner is able to use this brewing animosity and emotional weight to great effect.
While House of the Dragon has so far given way to a considerable level of hack and slash carnage, we’ve only been treated to a taste of the heavy eroticism that Game of Thrones became celebrated for. But leave it to Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon, the Machiavellian bad boy of House of the Dragon to ramp up the sexual tension of the series. And this leads to a considerable amount of naked flesh on display by the end of Episode Four. Taking audiences into the sinful and forbidden desires of the Targaryens, Kilner showcases the guarded Princess Rhaenyra who following her uncle out into the pleasure houses of the Street of Silk, finds a world of secret pleasures and unthinkable desires that she wishes to taste for the first time. Kilner’s attention on Milly Alcock’s Princess Rhaenyra showcases a young woman welcoming in her sexuality for the very first time, and this hedonistic exploration by the young Rhaenyra leads to some unexpected bed mates.
Princess Rhaenyra’s sexual awakening is in stark contrast to her best friend Queen Alicent who faces the unpleasant task of the King’s desires, and her discomfort and boredom are shown to all. Kilner’s focus on sex and its emotional and political impacts within House of the Dragon leads to plenty of strife for Episode Four, ‘King of the Narrow Sea’. When Princess Rhaenyra’s indiscretions come back to the King his wrath is mighty and all suffer because of it. Princess Rhaenyra’s pleasures also strike a blow to her friendship with Queen Alicent who begins to see her in a new scornful light, and Kilner focuses on this high level of animosity. Paddy Considine, Milly Alcock and Emily Carey all put in solid performances in this episode and this heightened level of tension leaves things on a knife edge.
While we’ve come to see sword and axe lay their claim on the seat of power, ‘King of the Narrow Sea’ shows how emotion and sexuality can have an even more dangerous effect on the machine of power. The ‘game of thrones’ is always at play and where there is an advantage to be pressed someone will take it. The drama is whipped up in this fourth episode and its fascinating to see how our characters deal with it. Kilner’s layering of the episode and the focus of what is revealed, against what is hidden keeps the audience guessing as to the narrative’s final intent, and much emotional damage is done by its conclusion.
The fallout of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen’s choices will be bold, and episode by episode we see a young woman coming into her own who is questioning the very system and royalty she is to one day inherit. And this questioning will have consequences. What they are still awaits to be seen, but it appears that the Targaryens could themselves burn up in their own fires.
House of the Dragon is available to watch on SKY SOHO and NEON.
Image: SKY TV